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NASA tests prototype electric astronaut van for Artemis moon missions

Technicians dressed in orange NASA flight suits ride in a Canoo Crew Transportation Vehicle prototype for NASA.
Technicians from NASA's Johnson Space Center test out a Canoo Gamma van prototype for the new Crew Transportation Vehicle to drive Artemis astronauts to the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

We now know what it may look like when NASA's Artemis astronauts head to the launch pad for a trip to the moon.

Two recent NASA photos offer a glimpse of what the agency's new all-electric "Crew Transportation Vehicle" will look like when it takes astronauts to Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center for moon missions under the Artemis program. The photos show NASA technicians riding in a Gamma electric van built by automaker Canoo, which NASA selected as its new astronaut van builder in March.

"Representatives with Canoo were at the spaceport demonstrating the environmentally friendly fleet of vehicles," NASA wrote in a description of the images (opens in new tab), which were released May 11. One of the images shows an exterior view of the sleek, white Gamma van emblazoned with NASA and Artemis program logos. Another shows two NASA technicians in orange flight suits sitting in the back seat of the Gamma van.

Related: NASA's Artemis 1 moon mission explained in photos

A prototype of NASA's new electric Crew Transportation Vehicle built by Gamma van manufacturer Canoo drives to the launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida in a May 2022 test. (Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

While NASA has tapped Canoo to drive Artemis astronauts to their Space Launch System megarocket ahead of launch, the company is facing some financial challenges. On May 10, one day before NASA shared the images, Canoo representatives issued a filing with the U.S. Securitites and Exchance Commission (opens in new tab) stating these challenges are a "going concern" due to financial losses of $125.4 million in the first quarter. 

"We believe substantial doubt exists about the Company's ability to continue as a going concern for twelve months from the date of issuance of our financial statements," Canoo wrote in the filing.

NASA tapped Canoo to build its Artemis astronaut van earlier this year to provide zero-emission electric vehicles to provide crew transportation vehicles for Artemis moon mission crews, starting in 2024 with the Artemis 2 mission. They are expected to seat up to eight people, including four spacesuit-clad astronauts, for trips to NASA's launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. They will also replace the iconic silver Astrovan vehicles used to drive NASA astronauts to space shuttle launches for decades.

"The fleet will consist of three vehicles designed to take the fully suited astronauts, their support team, and their equipment on the nine-mile stretch of road from the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building to the launch pad." NASA officials said in an April 13 announcement. "The new transports will be based on the company’s all-electric LV models, customized for NASA’s unique needs."

NASA issued its contract with Canoo on March 31 and will pay $147,855 for the vehicles, according to SpaceNews (opens in new tab)

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Tariq Malik
Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.